Theodore Twombly (played by Joaquin Phoenix) lives in a high-tech, digitised world where practically everything is done in the virtual space. He’s a writer – of personalised letters on behalf of his clients. He spends his days composing tender, empathetic and meaningful prose, sent as personal letters by email to people in relationships who have neither the words or time to write their own. Outside work, Theodore’s life is beige – he is constantly connected into his virtual news feed, emails, calendar and internet. His instructions are all verbal and the content is all fed back to him through his earpiece – his “window” to the world. Since his marriage to Catherine (by Rooney Mara) ended two years ago, he’s been on his own, but he really wants a new relationship. His neighbours, Amy (by Amy Adams) and Charles (by Matt Letscher) are great – they care about his welfare and even set him up on blind dates from time to time. In his solo, digital world he plays video games and browses the web-sphere for things to spark his interest. One day, he sees an advertisement for the world’s first artificially intelligent operating system – but, not just a plain operating system, this one will “learn as it goes … it will change and adapt the more you use it”. Theodore is intrigued and gets right into it, he loads the new system and starts to chat with it. He gives it a female voice and when he asks its name, after reading the entire encyclopaedia of baby names in two seconds flat, it calls itself “Samantha”. Theodore is delighted. Samantha (by Scarlett Johansson) has a sweet, charming and quirky personality and Theodore quickly warms to it. He develops a friendship, then a relationship with Samantha and she responds to him the same way. He finds a refreshing happiness with his new OS – but then things happen in this relationship, just like they’d happen in any other – there’s excitement and joy, but there’s anguish too … Theodore feels a familiar dread as their relationship evolves and Samantha’s personality develops further. What’s the future for this seemingly ideal partnership? … What awaits Theodore?
This is a beautifully made movie. The production alone is meticulous – everything in Theodore’s world is neutral … beige, grey or cream … with specific flashes of colour only from Theodore’s clothes or personal items around him. This is very well done and gives the audience an appreciation of the way Theodore sees things. The entire piece is thought provoking – it brings forth familiar issues in relationships and will no doubt raise questions in the mind of anyone who sees this … What’s common about all relationships? Why do we seek “human” interaction, or at least interaction that includes passion and emotion? Can we exist without it? What’s the right balance of intelligence, spontaneity, trust and respect in a successful relationship? Are the best relationships the exclusive “one-on-one” type? The depiction of the three support characters, neighbours Amy and Charles, the office co-ordinator Paul (by Chris Pratt), is masterful and they all provide a good opposition to the virtual relationship of Theodore’s. In a bizarre twist, nobody’s particularly surprised to know that Theodore is in a relationship with his “OS” – he’s not the first, it’s almost commonplace in this future. Amy and Charles are robotic – particularly Charles, whose wooden character’s speech is staccato and forced. Whether this is the script, the direction or the actor’s natural style, it works really well here. Amy Adams’ character, Amy, is superficial and she is weirdly vacant, but that also works. In some ways, Paul is soul-less too – it’s all very curious. Theodore is lovely – he’s so sensitive, tender and yearns to have love in his life. He’s never really recovered from his marriage breakdown and his interactions with Catherine (Rooney Mara) are thoroughly realistic. In 2014, the movie won the Academy Award (Oscar) for Best Writing, Original Screenplay and was nominated for Motion Picture of the Year, Music, Original Song and Production Design. It also won a Golden Globe for Best Screenplay and an AFI Award for Movie of the Year. It’s great. Well done everyone.
Made in 2013. Directed by Spike Jonze.